Another short work trip, this time to Bilbao. Id never been to the Basque country and was surprised how familiar the climate felt at this time of year, It was damp and windy and some of the near coast line resembled parts of Cornwall and the South West. The first morning I had off was spent at the coast near Sopela, 35 mins from Bilbao via Metro. initally Low cloud, a light northerly wind and lots of birds moving. Rough estimates of 10k Chaffinch, 1k+ of Song Thrush and Skylark, few hundred Redwing, similar numbers of meadow pipit, a Ring Ouzel, a few tree pipits and a surprise Richards Pipit! This bird flushed from grass 10 metres away on the headland, called a good few times and flew, quite far inland, I didn’t see where it landed and despite searching suitable habitat for 2 hours after the bird wasn’t seen again. I intially assumed that would be a good bird for the area but after doing abit of asking around I received this info from Daniel Lopez Velasco “Richard’s Pipit is a regular passage migrant and wintering bird in Northern Spain, about 100 birds or so each year.” Still was a nice satisfying event.



The Headland and surrounding area was teaming with things like Dartford, Sardinian and Fantailed Warblers




An area of pine forest held Crested tits, Shorttoed treecreeper, whilst the suburban streets and unfinished building sites were good for Serins, many Black redstart of course and Cirl Buntings which I really enjoyed. I wasnt able to get any gen for anything in particular so just looked on google earth for suitable looking areas. I often end up birding in these kind of quiet half finshed places when im abroad, quite like them.




Back on the metro and on to the next town: Plentzia. A quiet, affluent ,coastal town where I could see a harbour and was hoping to look at Gulls. Its apparent that most if not all the gulls here were ‘LusitaniusYellow Legged Gulls. They’re supposed to be smaller, Paler and behind in terms of moult.  Varying degrees of delayed moult was present in pretty much all the birds I saw, take this completly juvenile bird in October! If im honest It was a real eye opener.


The first winter birds are paler and much warmer toned, resembling some Herring Gulls. Overall I’d say more buff/grey/brown/dark brown than white/grey/brown/black



A failry standard looking first winter below, but with a noticeably delicate scapular pattern that these birds seem to be prone to.


A second winter without any adult grey toned Scapulars.


Paler toned adult Grey scapulars, this bird could easily go down as a Herring gull with brief views in the UK, the structure and head was spot on for YLG however.



A more standard 2nd winter in terms of moult advance, was ringed on a small island off the coast NW of Bilbao. I ‘ve written to the scheme asking for info about birds travelling north in late summer and waiting for a reply.



Not a bad trip really.

Author: Jamie Partridge

Birding South East Kent: Langdon Hole to South Foreland

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